I distinctly remember when my oldest of three daughters entered a language competition a few years ago. Although I am of Chinese descent, I am not a native speaker nor do I speak it at home; it's a language I learned in college. So when my daughter's high school Mandarin teacher recommended that she enter a state-wide contest I wasn't surprised; she had a definite knack for the language. To our delight she won first place and a huge trophy to mark her victory. She was thrilled when her name was called to go on stage to accept her award. Our whole family celebrated. Newly armed with peacock proud bragging rights I excitedly told many of our extended family and friends.
Fortified with this incredible win, our daughter entered the following year. She was sure she was going to win again. We were all sure. With praise from her teacher, multiple late night practices, and further encouragement from family and friends, she was ready to add a second trophy to her collection. But this time she did not win. She did not even garner a second or third place honorable mention. It was pure defeat. To add to this defeat, whenever our extended family and friends asked about the results it was like reliving the loss again.
My daughter was not the only one to learn from this defeat. What I learned as a parent is that we can get caught up when our child has a huge victory. We may even be more excited about the bragging rights than the victory itself. Is that because it gives us a chance to show off our parenting mettle (or would that be medal)? And how does a parent's meddling play out in the emotions of our children in a victory or defeat?
Fortunately my oldest daughter has a huge amount of determination and resiliency. While she accepted the defeat graciously of her own accord, the loss ended up providing a powerful fuel to try yet a third time. As her mother, I was even more proud of her determination in the face of defeat than her initial win.
In my newly found humbleness I learned it was better not to say anything this time to our family and friends. As they say, the third time is a charm. Indeed it was, and in her triple try she won first place again. It was a win like no other after coming in from behind. It wasn't just a win it was a revelation. For our daughter it revealed what an amazing child we had raised who used the defeat to create the impetus to work harder and try again. As a parent, it revealed that bragging rights is nothing more than what I now label 'Peacock Parenting' - taking the credit for something my child did all on their own. It wasn't my win to brag about, it was my daughter's. I did not need to tell all my friends about her victory to feel the glow of her accomplishment.
What this taught my whole family was something the late Randy Pausch said so superbly in his book, "The Last Lecture." I had my children read his book and we have this quote firmly locked in our minds:
"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something."
This third time we let the victory news come out on its own. It was our daughter's victory to savor and our quiet proud moment as parents to let her shine all on her own.
Has your child savored the thrill of victory or agony of defeat? What role did you play in that?
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Tina Case is aYahoo! Shine Parenting Guru. When she's not writing for Yahoo! more of her parenting articles can be found on Parent Grapevine and her photography on Moms Who Click.